Survey shows need for conservative, drug-free options

A new survey showing that nearly half of all Americans are concerned about the safety of the medical care they receive should send a strong signal to the health and insurance industries that safer non-drug, non-surgical treatments should be considered whenever possible, according to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA).

The survey, released Nov. 17 by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and the Harvard School of Public Health comes five years after a groundbreaking Institute of Medicine (IOM) report found that hospital-based medical errors were the eighth leading cause of death in the United States. Despite the increased focus the 1999 report placed on improving health care quality, 40 percent of those recently surveyed believe the situation has actually worsened in the past five years. More disturbing is the fact that one-third of those surveyed say that they or a family member has experienced a medical error at some point in their life.

"Americans too often choose to pop a pill or seek out elective surgery to treat health problems that could just as effectively -- and more safely -- be managed by less invasive and/or non-drug options," commented ACA President Donald J. Krippendorf, DC. "Even over-the-counter pain relievers can have dangerous side effects -- such as liver damage, internal bleeding or even death -- that many consumers are unaware of. It is time for a paradigm shift toward safer and more natural health care.

"If more patients with musculoskeletal complaints were encouraged to utilize scientifically supported interventions, such as those frequently utilized by doctors of chiropractic, many unnecessary hospital stays, surgeries, dangerous medications and the adverse effects they sometimes cause could be avoided -- along with the increased health care costs they generate," added Dr. Krippendorf.

Chiropractic care is one of the safest health care options available today, boasts high patient satisfaction ratings and has been shown to be more effective than medication at treating conditions ranging from back pain to headaches, according to the ACA.

Recent studies pointing to chiropractic's effectiveness include a March 2004 study in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics that found chiropractic care to be more effective than medical care at treating chronic low-back pain in patients' first year of symptoms. In addition, a July 15, 2003 report from the medical journal Spine found that manual manipulation provides better short-term relief of chronic spinal pain than does a variety of medications. Another recent study conducted by the Duke University Evidence-Based Practice Center found cervical or neck manipulation, as provided by doctors of chiropractic, appropriate for both tension-type headache and "cervicogenic" headache -- a sub-category of tension headache that is associated with specific neck symptoms. In addition, it noted that "cervical spinal manipulation has a very low risk of serious complications" which may be "one of its appeals over drug treatment."

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